Via Science Daily:
Scrambled connections between the part of the brain that processes fear and emotion and other brain regions could be the hallmark of a common anxiety disorder, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The findings could help researchers identify biological differences between types of anxiety disorders as well as such disorders as depression.
The study, published Dec. 7 in the Archives of General Psychiatry, examined the brains of people with generalized anxiety disorder, or GAD, a psychiatric condition in which patients spend their days in a haze of worry over everyday concerns. Researchers have known that the amygdala, a pair of almond-sized bundles of nerve fibers in the middle of the brain that help process emotion, memory and fear, are involved in anxiety disorders like GAD. But the Stanford study is the first to peer close enough to detect neural pathways going to and from subsections of this tiny brain region.
Such small-scale observations are important for understanding the brains of people with psychiatric disorders, said Duke University neuroscientist Kevin LaBar, PhD, who was not involved in the research. “If we want to distinguish GAD from other anxiety disorders, we might have to look at these subregions instead of the general signal from this area,” he said. “It’s methodologically really impressive.”
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